First, let me say that I want you, dear Reader, to understand that these words are coming from Mike Coleman, the soccer supporter and not Mike Coleman, the 107ist board member. As a 107ist board member, I will work to ensure we uphold our mission to support soccer in the Portland area from the grass roots to the highest levels. I will follow the lead of the membership, and work to ensure we continue to be Soccer City USA. This may not always align 100% with what I may want, but that’s the way it should be.
That being said, there was a meeting Friday night – a lot of passionate people came out to determine how best to support Thorns FC. They bandied about questions and opinions, voted on names, thought about flags, talked about tifo, and designed their merchandise line.
This was all streamed over the Internet where several folks thought it was a better use of their time to throw stones instead of participating in the discussion. It’s fun to mock people on Twitter (hell, I do it all the time), to cast aspersions, but not bring anything to the party – this is the American way in the Internet age.
As I sat back at the meeting, participating a bit as a supporter and answering questions about the role of the 107ist the best I could, I thought to myself “while a lot of this is a real clusterfuck, these folks are getting together and trying to move stuff forward – bravo for them”
Then I came home and I read Twitter. I saw folks I respected arguing with other folks I respected (as well as folks who I think are complete cotton-headed ninny muggins weighing in on both sides, when they should be turning the lights off in their parents’ basement and going to bed). There was even a sock created representing one of the final name choices. It was all entertaining, but simultaneously frustrating.
“You have to let this happen, you can’t dictate the culture, let it grow ORGANICALLY”
“How is calling for all interested parties to come together and talk about what they want to see not ORGANIC”
Repeat those two sentences about 500 times and you’ll get the nature of the argument.
My thoughts originally were more aligned with the “we are all working on this together, everyone is free to join in” crowd.
People who have been around a lot longer than me will say, “The Timbers Army took years to evolve. You can’t just fork lift in supporters’ culture and expect it be genuine”
To that many of us replied, we already know what to do. We’ve seen it in our own backyards for years. It’s not 2002, we have a cadre of volunteers, we have materials, and we have financial backing – it would be ludicrous to suggest that we forget that we know all this and go back to an age when there was no Twitter or Facebook and we didn’t have 4,000 flags sitting up in a cage above the field.
And then I read more. I read about how this is all for the “Mo’s” of the world (Mo is a teenage female TA who designed an initial scarf which was the genesis of the meeting last night). How this is for the teenage girls in Portland to give them role models, and show them they can pursue their dreams.
And that is great. That is something we need to do. We need to teach young women (and young men for that matter) how to derive self-worth from healthy avenues. Young boys growing up seeing stadiums full of people worshiping teams made of male athletes. Having a chance for young women to see an entire city stand behind a female team is nothing short of awesome filled with win dipped in incredible.
But what I realized this morning was that none of us know what the experience inside that stadium is going to be.
I had thought in my own head that it’d be just like a Timbers match. All of the same folks I see at Timbers matches would be there, and we’d do what we do in a slightly varied manner. The chants may change, but many of the faces would be the same.
At this point I’m sure you, dear Reader, are thinking that I’m the cotton-headed ninny muggin.
When the Thorns FC season starts, I’m sure a lot of my friends are going to be there. I’m sure a lot of them are going to want to bang drums and chant. But, like at a reserves match, a lot of them are going to want to grab a beer and move to a place where they can become supporters of a different nature. Just like the folks who sit on either side of JWF and cheer their ass off when it suits them during Timbers matches
And who will fill their place in the North End? Will it be a concentration of Timbers Army? Will it be legions of teenage girls? Will it be curious people from the community who can’t get Timbers tickets but want to experience the beautiful game played by some of the best players in the world?
We don’t know. We just don’t.
They say in fighting everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. It is great to have a plan. But, it’s also vital to understand that you can’t build a plan that’s viable when you don’t understand all the variables.
How do you scale a tifo design when you have no idea who many people will be there to execute it? How many t-shirts do you order when you have no idea how many people will buy them? How many flags do you make when you have no idea how many people will wave them.
Do you go out and march bravely ahead and hope you don’t end up with 800 DVDs you can’t sell? Or, do you start small with some core things you know will work and then as lay of the land becomes clearer do you grow . . . . judiciously.
Anyone who loves soccer wants NWSL to succeed, and if they live here they want the “yet to be named supporters group” to be a shining example of what Women’s soccer support should be. But, it doesn’t have to all be done by mid-April for first kick.